Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oh dear, this looks bad

And I’m not talking about the weather either.  Although, at minus 28 this morning with a minus 41 degree wind chill, it looks pretty ugly too. 

Nor am I referring to my little Case tractor, despite the fact that it royally let me down yesterday.  First the steering wheel insisted on slipping on the steering shaft.  I’ve got a bad setup there.  The original “system” sucked a bit and my repair to it didn’t really improve the situation.  The original relied on a bakelite hub fitting tightly to about a 1-1/2” knurled shaft.  The two parts are held together by a nut but there isn’t enough taper on the knurled portion, there is no key and eventually the bakelite wheel broke into pieces.  I fixed that with epoxy and ended up with a wheel that looked like it would work but the epoxy isn’t hard enough to hold on the knurled shaft and over time it has just worn out the epoxy.  I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board but in the interim I have drilled the shaft and put a bolt through the steering wheel.  However, no sooner had I solved that problem than another much more serious problem appeared. 

When I started the engine the blade wouldn’t raise and I quickly realized it wasn’t going up because the little tractor was bleeding all it’s oil out.  Its not as serious as it might be – there’s a piece of 1” flex hose that connects the hard line return to the cooler which has failed.  I replaced it when I reconditioned the tractor but perhaps I used the wrong kind of hose – I used whatever I could find at hand which likely wasn’t the best way to select a piece of hydraulic hose.  Regardless of the reason, the tractor is hors de combat until I replace that hose again.  Fortunately all this happened in the relative comfort of my (unheated) shop. 



That’s the real reason for my heading.  My lathe finally arrived.  I ordered it several weeks ago after determining that whatever I was going to find for an affordable used lathe wasn’t likely to be significantly better than what I could buy a new Chinese lathe for.  The one I ordered was shipped from Toronto.  They wanted an absurd amount to ship it to Buchanan but only about $130 to ship to Regina.  I was planning to go to Agribition anyway so I told them to ship to Regina and hold it for me to pick up.  That turned into a bit of a fustercluck because they seemed incapable of providing the most basic order confirmation and their idea of tracking information consisted of a weblink saying “its shipped”.

Early last week I got a phone call from Ridsdale Transport in Yorkton.  Evidently my crate had been passing through the depot in Yorkton when the manager recognized my name.  My little skidsteer went through that depot so that must have been why he remembered me.  Perhaps there was some mention of Buchanan on the bill of lading despite the final destination of Regina.  Whatever the reason, he called me and asked if I really wanted to pick it up in Regina.  I agreed that coming to Yorkton would be preferable.  So I did and of course the excellent manager was away when I arrived and I had to deal with his idiot helper who I had a run in with when I picked up the skidsteer.  This time he was freaking out because I also had a desk in the back of the truck.  He started by asking “How are we going to load it on there?”  I was baffled by the question so I assumed he meant he didn’t have a forklift – the crate weighed around 400 pounds.  When I finally figured out that he was simply too stupid to understand that I could move the desk I told him to find something else to worry about.

The next challenge was getting the heavy crate from the truck to its destination in the basement.  The desk was easy and I was spared any idiot commentary from Ridsdale’s temporary help.  The lathe was a bigger problem and at one point I seriously wondered what I had got myself into.  The little skidsteer easily moved it to the porch and I was able to drag it to the head of the stairs with relatively few problems.  Once it was sitting at the top of the stairwell though the reality of moving 400# down the stairs without losing control of it set in.  I ended up entirely removing the crate except for the plywood base that the lathe was bolted to. That allowed me to remove all the loose parts in the crate as well as most of the weight of the crate and likely dropped the net weight to be moved to around 300# – still enough to get me in trouble but manageable.  Then we strapped it to the little 2 wheel cart which has served us through several moves and I slowly dropped it one step at a time into the basement. 

The next challenge was to get it raised onto the desk but that was anticlimactic.  I just screwed a couple of brackets onto two floor joists, stuck a 1” swing handle through them for a bar and used a nylon ratchet strap as a winch. 


Now I need to figure out how to use it which clearly will take 100s of times as many hours as putting it in place took.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unfortunately its really winter now

….. fortunately my little Case started like a trooper.  I did have to fiddle fart around with the choke to keep it running.  We’ve got spoiled by computerized ignitions and fuel injection on gas vehicles.  When a diesel starts it generally just runs but a carbureted gas engine can be a temperamental bitch, as those of us of a certain age can well remember.  I can remember many frigid mornings bent over the open engine bay on one of father’s vehicles trying to coax it into life.  My earliest memory of that was when mother’s ‘58 wagon burned my eyebrows off after it coughed a fireball up through the carb.  I can also remember one bitterly cold day in Regina when the radiator in the ‘66 Montclair slushed up and we had to run it with a blanket over the hood until it generated enough heat to thaw itself out.  It had a 390 with an early automatic choke.  Those auto-chokes pretty well never worked.


Its remarkable what the little 446 will push, as this photo should attest ….


That was early going – as I got better at managing the controls I managed to push a lot higher.  I’ve got about 200 pounds of weight on, maybe a little more, plus the tire chains and it handles remarkably well.  I’ve driven full size tractors with blades that handled a lot worse.  Its sometimes a little light on the front end with the blade down but that’s normal too – with the blade on an angle it will tend to steer the tractor but its really quite manageable.  All in all I’m very impressed with how the project turned out.  The only incident this morning was minor.  At one point I started to lose steering control but it turned out that I had failed to tighten the steering wheel nut sufficiently.  It held together long enough to get me back to the garage where a couple of turns with a wrench solved the problem.

Other than last night’s snowfall our week was pretty uneventful.  We made a trip to Nipawin on Wed/Thurs so that I could attend a 3rd degree – actually a 3 candidate 3rd degree.  I haven’t sat in Lodge in Nipawin for years – we couldn’t remember exactly how long it had been.  The degree team from Grand Lodge was in attendance so that brought out a large crowd.  There were close to 30 of us showed up for supper prior to the meeting.  We worked in a visit with Grace and Al which ended up keeping Gracie up until after 2:00 AM.  I expect she was wishing we had stayed home by the quitting time the next day. 

Marilyn has been sanding up a storm getting ready for paint.  We had a good look at the Pinkney ceiling to confirm how we want to paint the ceiling here.  There was a guy in Nipawin who was (locally) famous for the effect he created on ceilings.  We had him do the ceiling on the 1st acreage as well as most of the house in town.  What he did was paint the ceiling with a high gloss oil paint and then, while the paint was still wet, he waved a coal oil lantern around over his head, turning the wick in and out as he did.  Those of you who have used a kerosene lamp know how much soot they can produce.  As that smoke comes out of the top of the chimney it creates a marble effect in the wet paint.  The paint stays glossy but absorbs the soot.  You end up with a very unique ceiling effect that is dead simple to keep clean.  We were pretty sure we wanted to do it again and seeing Pinkney’s ceiling just confirmed that.  Their ceiling is probably over 40 years old now and still looks wonderful.  If this one lasts even half that long it won’t matter to either of us anymore.  The biggest problem now is finding a decent oil based gloss white paint but its out there, we just have to buy it and put it on.  I bought a kerosene lamp off eBay.  We’ll be painting before Christmas.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another project done

The noisy Onan wasn’t a whole lot of use to us in the backend of the frenchy-bus.  It was great when the bus was mobile but the last year, not so much. 


The thought of digging it out of the back of the bus was daunting but I finally got at it and it wasn’t really that bad.  I kept the costs to a minimum, using mostly old junk that I had lying around. 


I ended up springing for a couple of electrical boxes but otherwise I just used up junk that I already had on hand.  Last night I moved it out of the shop and set it beside the house.  I’ve got the two 8D start batteries out of the bus hooked up so I should have adequate start power.  I haven’t done it yet but I’ve got a battery tender that I will leave hooked up to them. I’m waiting for a call from the local electrician to get a quote on changing the house panel from 125 amp to 200 amp.  Assuming he isn’t stupidly expensive, I’ll add a sub panel into that project so that we can run a few critical circuits on a transfer switch off the genset.  At a minimum I’d like to have the furnace and the kitchen ready to go on the generator – the TV would be nice to have too.  I suppose now that we’re this well set up the power won’t go out but I guess you don’t buy insurance so you can watch your house burn down either. 


I’m coming to the end of my outdoor project list which is a good thing because its getting too cold to work outside – minus 20 this morning.  I’ve got some plexi-glass to install in the skidsteer and I need to build a door for it as well.  I’ve also got a little 12 volt heater that I should hook into the engine cooling loop but I may put that off until warmer weather.  I don’t really need to run the skidsteer in the winter – that’s what the little Onan in the Case garden tractor is for.  If Tasca Auto Parts ever gets done screwing up my order and ships the lower steering shaft for the Lincoln I’ll put that in but its not urgently needed.  I’ve been keeping the old one alive with a grease needle and its nowhere near the end of its life anyway.  I would like to get it done and I’ve paid the bastards for the part but they just seem incapable of getting it shipped.  Other than those two projects I’m pretty well caught up on outside projects.

Whenever I run out of outside project weather there is an expanding list of indoor projects waiting.  Marilyn has already stripped the peeling paint off the kitchen ceiling and patched a bunch of gyproc.  At a minimum we hope to get that painted and lay ceramic tile before we go back to the boat.  Mind you, if both of us stay unemployed, we might just hunker down on the prairies for the winter.  Boating is expensive.  So is renovating.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cold, damn cold

The furnace is working overtime and I’ve been burning a lot of diesel to keep the little garage warm too.  I’ve got one of those construction heaters that is supposed to burn kerosene but works just fine on diesel fuel.  Recently I have discovered that I can get rid of waste oil by blending it off into the diesel.  I do have to concoct a bit of a witch’s brew in order to get it to burn.  Too much waste oil puts the furnace out and sometimes the smoke is a little intense but when I get the gasoline/oil blend just right it works well and I’m holding my own on the waste oil supply.  I just went through a big round of oil changes to get ready for winter so I’ve got a lot of oil sitting around.  We also brought back about 20 gallons of oil from the boat.  If I can figure out a higher analysis waste blend perhaps I can get rid of that over the winter as well. 

We spent most of the week in Saskatoon.  Ag in the Classroom launched Marilyn’s project with much fanfare at Prairieland and we were invited.  They had about 200 kids from Grade 7 schools around the city participating in the project plus as many more bussed in for the keynote speaker at noon.  The lunch speaker was Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children.  He’s a little full of himself but he has every reason to be proud of what he has accomplished.  He’s in his early 20’s now and heads up an organization that started with his dream – as a 12 year old – to make a difference.  Clearly he has made a difference in the world and he has a great ability to communicate with kids so he was an excellent choice for the session.  He’s also the founder of We Day which is a reward celebration for kids who have done some form of volunteer work in both the global and their local communities.  There was a We Day event in Saskatoon on Friday so Sara scheduled her Ag in the Classroom launch a day ahead of that in order to build on the media around We Day.  It worked well – the launch was exceptionally well done and we both had fun shepherding kids through the various learning activities.  Spending time with kids is great, particularly when you know you can send them home at the end of the day.


We used the Saskatoon trip for some visiting and to stock up at Costco.  I brought home some micro-tractor parts and of course I had to stop at Princess Auto.  As soon as the mayor heard I was going to the city I had a shopping list for Princess Auto and Marilyn had a Dollar Store shopping list.  The Dollar Store item was plastic tablecloths for the local hypnotist evening.  They do a celebration here called “Christmas in November”.  Its kind of a combination fall supper, village Christmas party, corporate Christmas party & dance evening.  The DJ for the dance was lame but they usually are.  Larry Christie is the only DJ I can think of who was ever any damn good.  Most times they just play music that they like to listen to which usually is no bloody good for dancing.  This time was no exception so we left before midnight. (which we probably would have done anyway I suppose)


The hypnotist was pretty much like any other hypnotist except that this one is a local lad.  When Wendy from the Co-op walked into the hall they had a big reunion because apparently she used to babysit the guy.  Marilyn spent a bunch of Friday and Saturday in the Community Centre helping prepare the evening meal.  They have a deal at the Plus 50 club here where the men pay a higher annual fee because the women are expected to help with the cooking.  It may not be sexually enlightened but it works for me. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Little tractors, perverts and cold weather

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The little Case has come a long way in a short space of time.  Its only about 3 weeks since it was lying in bits scattered around the backyard.  Now its substantially together and today I hung most of the decals on it.  I have to pick up a rattle can of clearcoat to keep the decal edges from lifting and I need a few more electrical bits to finish it up but its real close now. 




I spent a bunch of time this afternoon giving the Onan that came out of the little Case a gasoline bath.  I know you’re not supposed to do that anymore – maybe it never was a good idea – but its not the first engine rebuild that started out with a gas bath and it won’t be the last one either.  I’m not doing a rebuild by any stretch but I do want to clean it up a bit.  Right now I’m waiting for a new crankcase breather plate and then I’ll start bolting everything back together.  I pulled the heads this afternoon and scritched a bit of carbon off the deck and pistons.  I’m going to cheap out on replacing the head gaskets.  I’ve read in several places that I can coat the old ones with several layers of aluminum paint and slap them back on so that’s the way I’ll be doing it.  I’m not real sure what I’m going to do with the engine if I manage to get it running again but these little Onans are pretty rugged engines and they still bring a lot of money if they are running. 

Other than futzing with the tractor I haven’t cut a very wide swath this last week.  Of course we’ve been watching the Jian fiasco unfold and I am hoping that – since he seems to like rough sex – he’ll get a chance to experience rough sex in a prison environment.  I never liked the little SOB.  I can’t claim to have known anything about his sexual perversity but I just didn’t like him.  It always seemed to me that he had an unhealthy interest in interviewing perverts.  Pervs of a feather flock together.

About a week ago the mayor consulted me on the purchase of a fancy transfer switch to sit between his house panel and his generator.  I’m not sure what my authority is to speak about transfer switches but it got me thinking about our own generator and the fact that, when the power goes out in Buchanan, it generally stays out for a long time.  We got spoiled in Nipawin.  Sask Power makes most of the power for the whole province within 40 miles of Nipawin so, on those rare occasions when our power flickered, that usually was all it was, a flicker.  Buchanan, on the other hand, is at the end of a very long extension cord.  If that cord gets unplugged it can take a very very long time to get it all hooked up again.

We sat through a day long power outage here a few years ago in the bus.  At the time it really didn’t impact us because we could run the generator.  We still have the generator but it wasn’t a bunch of use 3 blocks away from us in the back end of a dead bus.  So early this week I started unbolting it and on Friday I pulled it out and loaded it in the back of the big white Ford.  Its pretty dirty so I thought I might as well take it with us to Saskatoon this week and give it a bath.  Then I’ll have to jury rig some kind of fuel supply and a battery but it should be relatively straight forward to get us a backup genset.  Gary bought his fancy transfer switch online so – whenever it arrives – I’ll have a look at it before I decide if there’s one of them in our future too.  The same switch is available in Canada for a mere 2 times the price that it sells for in the US.  So if we do buy one, it will be coming across the line as well.  The post office lady is getting used to me coming in to pick up parcels.